The Walking Dead has always been more a show about people rather than the zombies they are fighting. It’s about the relationships that form between friends, family, and strangers and how they all adapt to a new world both together and sometimes on their own. Throughout its eight seasons, there was one relationship that exemplified both of these themes and stood above the rest as the heart and soul of the show – Rick and Carl.
From episode one, Rick’s family was always his priority. He did everything that he could to keep them safe, and when it came to Carl, Rick consistently worked to be the best father he could be while still making sure that he was growing up in a safe and somewhat normal environment. When season 8 revealed that Carl had been bitten by a walker and would soon die, it truly shook The Walking Dead family and fandom to the core. While he still had Judith, Rick’s loss of Carl signified something so much deeper than just losing his son. Carl was meant to be the future of the apocalypse and the series in general. He was supposed to be the one who carried Rick’s legacy on, so his death hit everyone both on and off screen extremely hard.
With this past weekend having been Father’s Day, we thought that it would be touching for us all to take a look back at some of the pair’s best Father-Son moments throughout the series. They’ve been through some of the worst times together but also managed to find some fleeting moments of happiness as well. Before and during the apocalypse, they always had each other and were constantly finding ways to learn and teach one another.
This list was inspired by some of our amazing readers who shared some their favorite moments with us on social media, so be sure to check out our list below to see if yours is on here!
The Season 1 Reunion
“When he gets to see his dad for the first time at the camp.” –Anna Perkins
One of the pair’s standout moments occurred in Season 1, Episode 3 “Tell it to the Frogs” when Rick is finally reunited with Lori and Carl after waking up from a coma completely alone to discover there’s been a zombie apocalypse. Fate was at work when Glenn Rhee was the one to find Rick in that downtown Atlanta tank and the moment when Carl sees his Dad followed by Rick’s reaction is sure to make any long-time fan misty.
“Carl looking back at Rick with his goofy ass smile after finding the wild deer looking for Sophia.” @judtindtudor
The moment when Carl spots the wild deer before being shot by Otis back in season 2 was a very important episode as it touched on raising a child in the apocalypse. After Carl got shot, Lori questioned whether or not children are meant for this new world and what Carl’s future would look like if he survived. When Carl had a fleeting moment of lucidness he spoke to Lori about the deer and Rick reminded her that in his toughest moment he spoke about something beautiful and something alive. When he looked back at Rick in this scene it showed him that that boylike wonder was still there and there are still special moments in this world they will be able to share together.
Rick Gives Carl his Hat
Carl wearing Rick’s hat is probably one of the most iconic looks in the entire series. He really doesn’t take it off until his final episode where he passes it on to Judith. In a way, it connected the two of them even more throughout the series because even though Rick “retired” from his cop life in this episode, Carl always having the hat on was a reminder of the Dad he knew before the apocalypse as well as a way of always having him with him.
The Gun & The Barn
My favorite Rick & Carl moment was in the barn in season 2 when Rick gives Carl the gun back. I think that moment was so beautiful. –@ekinney.twd
The one where they’re in the loft on the farm, and he tells Carl that they will die someday and he wanted to him to be able to protect himself. –Catherine Ann Pombier Rowe
When looking back, this is one of the most impactful moments for Rick and Carl for a couple of reasons. Rick tells Carl before handing him the gun that “People are gonna die. I’m gonna die. Mom. There’s no way you can ever be ready for it. I try to be, but I can’t. Best we can do now is avoid it as long as we can and keep one step ahead.” Not only would Carl later have to kill Lori after she dies giving birth to Judith, but it also showed just how prepared Rick wanted Carl to be for whenever he died, but Rick never thought that he would have to be the one to live in a world without Carl.
The Prison Attack
When they reunited during the prison attack. The hug was just so emotional, and they were so happy to have found each other, even though they couldn’t find the others. Father👨 + Son👦 goals. -@hol_lyg
The Governor’s attack on the prison separated basically the entire group, sending them off into the unkown in random pairs and groups. A terribly injured Rick is one of the only ones left on the prison grounds and is desperately searching for Carl. Thankfully, Carl is there to save his life and the two have another emotional reunion. Even though their home has been completely destroyed, they still have each other and they will try again. The two then discover Judith’s bloody car seat, but they have no other choice but to leave and hope to be reunited with her and their group soon.
Carl’s Big Episode
Season 4/Episode 8 “After”, when they leave the prison after Hershel is killed and they are all out on their own. Carl is pissed at his Dad the whole episode and pretty much tells him that he wishes he were dead and that he didn’t need him anymore. Carl thinks Rick is turning into a walker then he breaks down and tells Rick he still needs him and then they are reunited with Michonne ♡ One of Chandlers biggest episodes –Karma Mohler
Despite having an entire episode dedicated to his death, Season 4’s “After” will probably always remain as Carl and Chandler’s best episode. While taking care of a badly injured and very weak Rick, an angry Carl begins seeing his father in a very different light. He’s acting out, disobeying his dad’s orders and saying really hurtful things, including a zing about Shane. He blames what happened to Lori and Judith on Rick and thinks that he would be better off on his own and sets out to prove it to himself. When he returns to the house he thinks an unconscious Rick has turned into a walker and grabs his gun, but he’s unable to pull the trigger. He breaks down and realizes just how much he does need his father and waits for a zombified Rick to bite him so they could go together. However, Rick is alive and Carl cradles his father’s head in his arms and simply admits that he’s scared.
Reuniting with Judith
Of course, the moment when Rick and Carl reunite with Judith is by far a standout for the Grimes family. Their family was finally whole again.
Rick’s Speech to Carl
When Carl got shot in the eye and Rick was there at his bedside telling him how the world will be better and he wants him to wake up to see. –Becky Davis
After Carl was shot in the eye, Rick gives a beautiful speech to Carl about hope. If you’re unable to watch the video above, here’s the whole transcription of it:
“Today I saw what they could do, what we could do if we worked together. We’ll rebuild the walls, we’ll expand the walls. There will be more. There’s gotta be more. Everything Deanna was talking about is possible. It’s all possible, I see that now. When I was out there with them, when it was over, when I knew we had this place again, I had this feeling. It took me a while to remember what it was because I haven’t felt it since before I woke up in that hospital. I want to show you the new world Carl. I want to make it a reality for you. Please. Carl. Let me show you.”
Rick only ever wanted Carl to be safe and to live in a place where they could thrive and grow, not merely exist in fear. He needed Carl to wake up so that he could accomplish that. Of course, knowing what we know now, Carl wasn’t exactly able to see these visions come to permanent fruition, but he certainly reminded Rick of this during his final moments…that it is possible to create a new world amongst the dead walking.
Rick Almost Cutting off Carl’s Arm
Season 7 episode 1 when Negan tells Rick to chop Carl’s arm off, and then Carl tells Rick to go ahead and do it. –Ray Pineiro
It’s not the most pleasant of scenes to watch, but this moment truly shows the trust that these two had in each other. It’s an interesting moment to watch as Rick is literally moaning in agony at the thought of having to cut off Carl’s arm, yet Carl sits there eerily calm giving his father permission to do so.
My favorite Rick and Carl moment was when Carl was dying. When he was talking to Rick about change and what he needed to do. Carl was so mature and so ready to die even though Rick couldn’t let him go… didn’t want to let him go. I don’t know if Rick realized it at that moment but Carl had become the man Rick had always hoped he would be and when Carl died, Carl did so on his own terms. –michell3834
While a majority of fans weren’t happy about the show’s decision to kill off Carl, his goodbye episode (8×09, ‘Honor’) really was a love letter to his character and the pivotal role that he played on the show and would continue to do so for the rest of the season. Having to watch Rick say goodbye to his only son, the son that he spent his life trying to protect, was gut-wrenching, but we have to agree with our reader – Carl had become the man Rick always hoped he would be.
The Flashback Scene
Our hearts just couldn’t handle this cuteness. In Carl’s letter to Rick he said:
Show everyone that they can be safe again without killing. That it can feel safe again, that it can go back to birthdays and school and jobs, and even Friday night pizza somehow. And walks with a dad and a three-year-old holding hands. Make that come back, dad. And go on those walks with Judith — she’ll remember that.
In the season 8 finale, we were able to see a glimpse of these walks that young Carl and Rick used to take before everything went to hell and for those who were still reeling from Carl’s death, it was quite a jarring and emotional scene. To see little Carl and Rick in his uniform was a perfect way to conclude Carl’s story and really Carl and Rick’s.
My favorite Rick & Carl moment is anytime he calls him Coooooooral! –@always_adventuring1728
The fact that we will never hear Rick say “Cooooooral” again hurts our hearts too.
Having studied Media & Writing at James Madison University, I always knew that I wanted to do some type of creative writing, but being able to write about zombies, Starks, and superheroes on a daily basis for Fan Fest is my actual dream. While I probably shouldn’t be as proud as I am to be so similar to Nick Miller, I do hope to one day write my own “Pepperwood Chronicles’.